'Environmentalist' Communists

Richard Fernandez17 Mar, 2024 5 Min Read
Actually, we wanted you to suffer all along.

For some decades now environmentalism and left wing ideas have been closely associated, but there has always been a skeleton in the closet. Marx was never a Greenie. The latest trend in environmental ideology, "de-growth Communism," is an attempt to fix this. Japanese Marxist Kohei Saito argues that economic shrinkage is good for Japan, good for the world and what Marx actually intended. "He has spent the years since studying Marx’s twilight years, when... the philosopher realized that capitalism, with its insatiable demand for growth, would inevitably lead to environmental disaster."

Portraying Marx as the environmentalist is frank revisionism. Its actual watchword was control over nature. Historically Marxism promised that it would grow faster than capitalism because it alone could control nature. Friedrich Engels, in his Dialectics of Nature frankly said that man's role was to be master of nature:

But all the planned action of all animals has never resulted in impressing the stamp of their will upon nature. For that, man was required. In short, the animal merely uses external nature, and brings about changes in it simply by his presence; man by his changes makes it serve his ends, masters it. This is the final, essential distinction between man and other animals, and once again it is labor that brings about this distinction.

You know who and you know whom.

That this was actual Communist orthodoxy is shown by Stalin's Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature begun "in the second half of the 1940s, for land development, agricultural practices, and water projects" throughout the USSR. If historical confirmation were needed Mao Tse-tung's equivalent to Stalin's bid to transform nature was the Great Leap Forward. Under the Maoist slogan, "man must conquer nature," China mobilized millions of people to kill birds, undesirable wildlife, change the course of rivers and transform the landscape itself in what Judith Shapiro called "Mao's war against nature."

By the late 20th century these failures had become a Marxist embarrassment and the polemicists relentlessly tried to explain them away as capitalist sabotage. The International Socialist Review would claim with a straight face that "contrary to a common perception—much of it understandably based on the diabolical environmental depredations carried out in the name of socialism by the former Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc, and China—Marx and Engels had a much more holistic view of humankind’s place in the environment... The language of socialism and the mantle of Marx and Engels were adopted by Stalin in the USSR, Mao in China, and other 'socialist' societies not to further the course of socialism but to derail it."

In other words, saboteurs had contrived to frame socialism to make it look like it wanted to master nature instead of trying to save nature. While Engels to his credit partially anticipated that some disasters might result from the Party's promethean efforts he remained convinced the bureaucrats would by subtle cunning eventually bend the universe to Communism's will. "Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human conquest over nature. For each such conquest takes its revenge on us... with every day that passes we are... more and more getting to know, and hence to control, even the more remote natural consequences at least of our more ordinary productive activities." Nature might fight back but the Party would triumph.

The old materialist Communists believed that you could buy the proletariat off with bread. But in de-growth Communism, the last Marxist faith in prosperity has been abandoned, perhaps because they cannot achieve it, and replaced by the assertion that control can substitute in its place such Woke things as wellness, solidarity, diversity, equity, and inclusion. As the World Economic Forum explains practical de-growth actions include buying less, growing your own food, and using empty houses instead of building new ones. Who gets to decide which goods and services people choose to spend their money on? Inevitably the government, perhaps even the world government that is always the greatest of prerequisites for universal happiness. And you will be happy.

Schwab's worst nightmare.

With de-growth economics, and de-growth Communism in particular, all the pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo of dialectical materialism is finally dropped. There is no more talk of a Worker's Paradise and Triumph Over Nature. Now it's "you will get subsistence rations and like it." This is evident in Leftist talking points which no longer promise bigger homes and faster cars. Instead you are offered smaller houses and Fifteen-Minute Cities. Marxism no longer vows to grow faster than capitalism through the control of nature but in fact promises that it will grow in reverse yet still control nature. If anything modern progressive ideology plans to control nature are undiminished and expanded to a scale that would make Stalin's Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature and Mao's Great Leap Forward seem like amateur hour.

A partial list of modern Climate Change initiatives features solar radiation management, including casting particles into the stratosphere, artificially brightening ocean clouds and launching bubbles into space. And then there are proposals to capture greenhouse gases from the air, turn CO2 into charcoal, seed the oceans with carbon eating plants and geoengineer the poles. In 2021 the IPCC described Cirrus Cloud Thinning (CCT) as a proposal "to reduce the amount of cirrus clouds by injecting ice nucleating substances in the upper troposphere."

The New York Times recently described a plan to build "a sea wall 100 meters high, or about 328 feet, on the floor of Disko Bay" in Greenland to stop glaciers from melting. "If the idea proved workable in the Arctic, it could be translated to Antarctica," the Times continued. Though it would cost at least $50 billion and "could represent the most difficult construction project in human history," why should money be an object when it comes to saving the planet? A report by McKinsey estimated the transformation to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 would require $9.2 trillion in annual average spending. Cough it up. You're better off poor but saving the planet.

If the reader has noticed that this looks suspiciously like Engels' program of control over nature returned in another form that is because it is. Taking the place of Stalin's gigantic public works and Mao's mad war on birds and insects are virtuous proposals to darken the sun, change the chemistry of the ocean and raise the sea floor. Only this time the goal is not to make the workers and peasants more prosperous, but on the contrary, to make them materially poorer. Does this make sense? It does if the goal is control of nature, control of man.

Richard Fernandez is the author of the Belmont Club. He has been a software developer and co-authored Open Curtains which proposes privacy as an information property right.


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One comment on “'Environmentalist' Communists”

  1. I'm so old I remember when upending the entire political economic and social order promised to improve living conditions. See what happens when historical illiterates are in charge of utopian fantasies ?

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